Where CNN went wrong in promoting time-lapse photography as a revolutionary new technology to improve IVF outcomes

In the latest OPINIONs piece, investigators at Center for Human Reproduction (CHR) examine the efficacy of embryoscopy, a closed embryo incubation system, and urge patients to be wary of unfounded marketing claims of improved IVF pregnancy rates. A review of published literature did not identify a single study that demonstrated improved IVF outcomes with use of embryoscopy, and the significant cost of acquiring the system may drive the cost of IVF even higher than it already is.

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July 7, 2014 (New York, NY) – An automated embryo incubation system with time-lapse photography, collectively known as “embryoscopy,” a costly new laboratory technology of unproven efficacy, is widely marketed by manufacturers and fertility clinics as a tool to improve in vitro fertilization (IVF) pregnancy chances, warn investigators at the Center for Human Reproduction (CHR), a leading research and fertility treatment center in New York City.

Embryoscopy allows embryos to develop in a closed, automated incubation environment, with constant observation by computerized time-lapse photography. Proponents of this technique argue that it offers two distinct advantages: (1) It removes manual interventions by embryologists once egg and sperm have been placed into the closed system; and (2) serial observations of the fertilization process and subsequently developing embryos allow for improved embryo selection. Combined, both advantages should lead to better IVF pregnancy rates.

In the latest piece in CHR’s OPINIONs commentary series, CHR examines the claims made by proponents of embryoscopy, including some IVF centers, which, like manufacturers of these instruments, use adoption of embryoscopy at their centers as marketing tools to attract patients. The OPINION piece concludes that, at least so far, claims of improvements in IVF outcomes are scientifically unfounded, as no study published so far in the world was able to demonstrate IVF outcome advantages from the use of embryoscopy systems.

Some studies have demonstrated significant differences in the speed of embryo development in these culture systems. However, not even a single study so far has been able to demonstrate differences in final outcomes from clinical decisions made based on these observations. It is also still unknown whether observed differences are typical for all embryos or only reflect culture conditions created by these instruments.

Despite the lack of evidence of efficacy, these systems are aggressively marketed to IVF centers as well as to the public, at unit prices approaching, and sometimes exceeding, $100,000. Even CNN recently fell victim to these marketing efforts, when Sanjay Gupta, MD, the network’s Chief Medical Correspondent, anchored a special half-hour program, declaring embryoscopy to be a “revolutionary product” in IVF.

Summarizing CHR’s opinion, Norbert Gleicher, MD, CHR’s Medical Director and Chief Scientist, notes: “Embryoscopy is a very interesting research tool with considerable potential. It, indeed, at some point in the future may detect morphological markers of superior embryo quality. However, at the current time, it does not improve IVF outcomes and, in contrast to CNN’s message, cannot be considered as ‘revolutionary’ or even beneficial in clinical IVF.”

The OPINION piece further explains that CHR considers embryoscopy a research instrument, which should be only used in properly conducted clinical trials, and should not be imposed on the public as part of a routine IVF process, further increasing the costs of IVF that is for many patients already prohibitively expensive.

The full commentary can be found along with the complete series of OPINIONs on CHR’s website at https://www.centerforhumanreprod.com/fertility/category/medium/opinions/

About Center for Human Reproduction
The Center for Human Reproduction (CHR), located in New York City, is one of the world’s leading and best known clinical and research centers in reproductive medicine and infertility. Independently vocal on issues impacting fertility patients, CHR has become known as a center of independent thinking in the profession, through its economic independence freed from political correctness and self-interests.

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